Friday, 10 December 2010

In A Flap

Do you remember those girls at school who could whip up fascinating origami secret-number-finger-things from bits of exercise book at break time? And jump about, in and out of elastic, singing complicated rhymes. They usually ended up in the hockey team. 
Each flap revealed a secret message or vicious barb.  

Or pointed a sharpened pencil at our destiny.

It happened to the best of us.
So imagine how pleased I was to finally learn how to make my own. And that, all this time, I have been just a few simple folds away from a glorious future.
These are our tickets for Sunday's Paper Caper.

The secrets to a new life of boundless creativity and fabulous wealth lie within their folds.
Lou. x

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Wakelin Hall

I have been having a brilliant time, making a vignette in a shoe box. I'm doing it for a number of reasons. Firstly as preparation for our forthcoming event, Paper Caper, on 12th December, and partly for an exhibition of work by local artists called Artists on Parade, being held this weekend to raise money for a very wonderful thing which happens each summer in Lewes called Patina Moving On Parade. At this parade all the children from all the primary schools who are moving up to secondary school parade through the streets of Lewes wearing the most fantastic costumes made from withies (sticks of willow) bent into shapes, covered with tissue paper, to form animals, flowers, anything. Last year's theme was the jungle and the streets were crowded with exotic plants, crazy insects and frightening beasts. As well as being a spectacle, it is also extremely moving. Here is the poster and if you are in Lewes this weekend do pop in and you might buy a masterpiece and raise money for this very special parade.

Now, back to the vignette. As well as making decorations at Paper Caper I thought it might be fun to do something that fuelled the imagination. Inspired by a friend giving me stacks of old postcards, I decided to use them to make a vignette in a shoe box. I have always loved museum displays where you are invited to look into peep holes and spy another world, whether it be real or imaginary. I turned to my trusty computer and the internet for instruction and found just what I needed here, at the V&A.
It was snowing heavily when I made this and the town outside appeared to be black and white. I think this inspired my choice of postcard as a starting point for my scene. It is of an ornately timbered house in black and white. I set it in a snowy wood. I showed it to my husband, Graham, who said that it reminded him of Wakelin Hall. A shiver ran up my spine and I was back in my teens, when I first met my man, tittering and teetering back from the pub in his village. In the middle of the village, behind a scrubby, wooded front garden stood... Wakelin Hall. It was a timbered building and had been empty for years. In the day time you never noticed it was there. But at night.... Some said they had seen a candle burning in a window. Others had dared to run up the path. I always quickened my pace when I went past Wakelin Hall. So this is what my vignette is about.
Here it is so far.

It has been a joy to do. Stage set designers are my new heros. My scene is very simple but looks quite complex when you see it through the peep hole. For me it has been an experience of less is more. I had other characters in there, more trees and sequin stars but it became a bit crowded and frustrating to look at because the eye couldn't focus. Next I will seal it up with the lid and decorate the out side. I'll show you when I'm done.


THIS is brilliant Watch it.  It'll only take a minute.
I'm  investigating papercraft. Properly. Before our Paper Caper on the 12th.  Talent is unfolding itself everywhere. Yesterday at the Artists And Makers fair at the Foundry Gallery, I discovered Lydia Crook, artist and paper engineer.  Why didn't I take a picture of her stall?  Or discover her months ago?  Here is just a small example of what she can do. A print for our youngest daughter.

You must  look at her WEBSITE.  And follow her BLOG. Quite awesome. And annoyingly youthful.

Someone had decorated the Foundry windows.  I want to live there. With a huge bed and woodburning stoves.  And make stuff.
Lou x

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Extreme Make Believe

Emma and I sat like mad gypsies outside the Round Barn, Firle last Saturday. In flurries of snow, we lit a bold fire, brought out wooden lanterns and blankets that we could have sold for a small fortune.

We had visitors.

Little fingers in the button box.
And David from the Dutch House came to stand by the brasier and chat. He brought warmth and spirit with him from the other open houses in the village and taught us how to make 3 D Christmas stars.  I found these instructions this morning and tried again. Watch the video clip just for the tune.  Then take a look at the Firle artists website   for a glimpse of this creative community at the foot of The Downs.  Behind every green wooden door or low flint wall there seems to be an artist at work. And David's bread is as good as it gets. There are open house events at least twice a year. The Tiny Tulips site will inspire and invite you to make time to visit Firle soon or get out your sewing machine.
Do you remember Vanessa, our crochet genius from Pimp Your Wardrobe?  Her house, Little Talland, was open too. Her other site Kissysuzuki would be a perfect place to shop for those of you who missed the mulled cider, red wine and warmth there last weekend.
Local Jewelry maker Louise ran a pop up vintage shop.  Behind the heavy wooden doors of the village hall was a canvas tent full of old fashioned toys, embroidered textiles, a rosary, glass plates and other lovely vintage flotsam.  There was home made cake and tea. Each table was decorated with crocheted doilies, fresh flowers and candles.  I went back the following day, just because.
Lou x

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Butter Me Up

Jumpers, frost and school again.  So I went to The Buttercup Cafe to work. I was gorgeously thwarted. The candles were lit, someone had thrown crocheted blankets across the wooden benches and added to the pile of magazines in the corner.  And, oh joy, Clare had left knitting out on each table. “It's communal knitting", she said. "Anyone can pick it up. It's particularly comforting for any one sitting alone".  
I spent an hour nursing verbena tea and carrot cake and promising my self 'only one more line'.  There are worse addictions.

It’s like being in a friend’s kitchen - a busy, generous friend, distracted and warm, chaotic and loving; a friend with a huge family who will always make space for one more cold body, make one more cup of tea.
Sometimes your eyes smart with chopped onions, steam, toast and reducing vinegar.
There are notices pinned to the fridge.  On the top, someone has put pots of crayons, a colouring book, a spice rack, kitchen scales and a dried hydrangea.
Produce is stashed under the benches and popped into the open green, wooden shelves - a happy, unselfconscious arrangement of chick peas, mustard, red napkins, vintage tea cups, pepper, cookery books, jars of cinnamon, and an old metal butter dish with an orange plastic lid that I want to pinch.  Stuffed into a big heart on the wall are post cards from traveling friends, I can imagine them missing it here when they're far from home. 
And tea is served in a pot.  What a pleasure.
The lovely Buttercup Cafe is on Facebook.
So are we.  
Go on. Log on.
Lou x

The Buttercup Cafe 15 Malling Street, Lewes, BN7 2RA.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Should I or Shouldn't I?

The clouds had cleared and parents began to drift in to collect their children from the party. Someone opened a bottle and I found myself sitting on the stoep surrounded by funny, engaging and warm strangers.  Instead of switching to performance mode, raising my game and searching for witty remarks to contribute, I wanted to pick up my crochet and listen.
Would they think it odd?  Or rude?
I sidled off to find it.  When I returned to my seat on the cerise pink cushion and my vodka, I felt more at home.  I put my boots on the low table like everyone else, except for the beautiful woman in blue pumps and I crocheted while our small talk deepened to the question of when we might come back to live in Africa again.

Lou x

Friday, 19 November 2010

It's A Wrap

Time to wrap presents for The Birthday.

And to fold and tease more paper flowers to decorate the tent.

My tongue and the tips of my fingers turned pink and purple with that old lady habit of a lick and a rub to separate sheets of paper.

We decided to leave a few flowers half opened to lie them flat on the table.
Then we hung flowers from tent poles, added crocheted cushions and vintage textiles and waited for the sun and the children to arrive.

Happy Birthday Maia. xx
Lou x

Thursday, 18 November 2010

More Wrapping.

I had an early Christmas experience in front of the box last night. I wrapped my first present. Lots of people know how to wrap without tape, but not me. A great video by Bonnie explained it all. Here is my effort. No tape what so ever.

Emma x

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

All Wrapped Up.

I have been doing a little research on present wrapping, the theme for our next craft evening at Wickle. In this day and age we are all trying to use less packaging so I thought it might be a good idea to bring a little of this thinking to our Christmas wrapping.
My first thoughts were of the way they wrap things in cloth in Japan. They do (did?) this often instead of using a bag to carry their groceries. I find wrapping bottles really difficult and I never end up with anything exciting or beautiful so I was delighted to find that the Japanese have a great solution. Here are my efforts. It took me less than a minute to do and I used scarves that I got from a charity shop that cost about the same as a piece of posh paper. Look at the useful handles!

For more inspiration visit these great sites.
Layers of Meaning
Raven's Nest

If you want to find out more, join us at Wickle on Thursday 9th December 7.30 - 9.30pm. Mulled wine and Mince pies!

Emma x

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Starring Role

This morning we appeared at Laporte’s with arms full of tissue paper.  At the long, red table by the window, we made huge white flowers and origami stars and drank our favourite (mother) Pukka teas. 
We felt very much part of the colourful life that flows through Laporte’s - people popped in and out to shelter from the rain, grab a handful of carrots or five minutes to sit and savour a coffee and the paper or treat themselves to one of Treacle and Company’s delicious cakes.
It would have been so easy to lose the whole day to the warmth and comfort of the café and the flow of chatter and creative activity.  

The style guru, Ilse Crawford says,
"We carry within us, in a small warm spot, the idea of home. Home as a safe place, a loving place, and a creative place".
If you can't be at home on a rainy Friday morning, Laporte's could be the next best thing.
Thank you Tanya, Indianna and Elle for a happy, messy, peaceful morning.
(Laporte's Cafe, 4 Lansdown Place, Lewes.  Tel: 01273 478817)
Lou x


Every time we open the doors of Make Believe Café, we invite Hygge. And Hygge always appears clothed in the candle light, in the warmth between us all, the chatter, the pleasure of making something beautiful or useful, a sip of wine, a bite of home made cake, the sense of being a part of something that is bigger than ourselves, community and connection, the possibility of friendship, the anticipation of a good time.
Hygge (pronounced ‘hoogah’ with a pinch of the lips and a bit of a smile) is a Danish word.  It comes from an old norse word meaning 'well being'.  When we hygge, we feel content, cozy, warm and reassured; we feel welcome, we share, we belong.  
It’s a very Danish way of celebrating the moment and each other.  It's all about family, friends and simple pleasures.
At Wickle last night, we ‘hygge-ed’.  We lit lanterns, filled baskets and jam jars with felt, vintage buttons, bright beads and jewel-coloured embroidery thread. And then we made small stockings and decorated them with french knots, blanket stitch and imagination. The plan is to make twenty five of them, (twenty four if you’re Danish and dance around your tree on Christmas Eve) and to fill them with treats - one for each day of advent.
It was like being invited to Father Christmas’s workshop, to sew stockings fit for elves; the walls stacked high with toys; wooden trains, knights, pink tutus, dolls, puzzles, necklaces and fairy wings.
I left feeling alive and happy.
Thank you Wickle and to all of you who came to hygge with us.

Lou x


Thanks Em.  For creating the montage with my photos.  You forgot this one of a tutor lurking in the background, drinking..

Lou xx

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Tying The Knot

I couldn't remember how to sew a french knot.  Did I ever know?
It didn't matter.  I had YouTube.  And there it was.
Better still, I had Scandinavian Needlecraft by Clare Youngs.  This book is the business. Have a look. It took me home to Denmark; to summers in red clogs with my family; to tables set with candles, fresh flowers and runners that Mormor had cross stitched; to the farm; to the sea; to scrubbed wooden floors, light, woolen blankets, and the simple pleasure of cotton cloth set with apple juice and biscuits on the beach. And then to Sweden where my first child was born almost eighteen years ago.

(Photographs of Scandinavian Needlecraft Cico Books 2010)
So, we called my parents, lit the fire and spent the evening laughing and tying ourselves in knots over the crossword while I remembered the smell of pine and beech forests and that I could sew. I finished a couple of advent stockings.  For the first time this year, Christmas seemed to come a slipper step closer.  

Lou x

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Make Believe Café at Wickle

Starting next week Make Believe Café are going to hold a monthly craft group at Wickle. For those of you that don't know, Wickle is a wonderful shop in Lewes that describes itself as 'a mini department store'. And indeed it is. Spread across three shops, they sell toys and children's clothes, ladieswear, menswear, books and stuff for your home. When I take friends from London to Wickle they always go mad and buy up the shop. I think this could be because in London you often find that even independent shops often sell similar stock. The wares at Wickle are far more unusual and unique and the stock changes regularly so there's no chance of it becoming boring. They also like to support local crafts people, so we thought this would be an ideal place to hold a craft night.

The first one is to be held next Thursday (11th November) and, in preparation for Advent, we will be making tiny felt stockings to hang on a ribbon washing line in which you can put a tiny gift for each day of Advent. While researching this project I came across this great site Uncommon Grace  which gives loads of ideas about what to put in advent calendars. The idea I liked best is to make tickets for treats that might usually happen at Christmas, such as a trip to see Father Christmas or to the cinema, and put these in some of the stockings. As you will see from the poster, a glass of fizz and little eats are included in the £10 ticket. The shop will be open, offering a 10% discount and tea, coffee and cake will be available from the cafe.
There are only 20 places so it's best to visit Wickle and reserve a place. If you can't make this one there's plenty more to follow.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

We Made It!

We made ourselves comfortable with vintage cloth, piles of books, orchids, fairy lights and the promise of a stiff drink at the end of the day.  We made pear and chocolate cake and endless cups of frothed coffee. We made collars, scarves, cuffs, crocheted flowers, cowls and buttons. We made each other laugh.
We made it happen. All of us.

Thank you all for coming to make believe with us.
Lou x